Tuesday, January 3, 2012

‘I welcome no layman to my abode’ 「門無俗士駕」

I was baffled when I first came across this calligraphy work. It's by Ueda Sōko, the founder of my Tradition of Tea. It reads: 「門無俗士駕」(mon (ni) zokushi (no) ga nashi) or ‘I welcome no layman to my abode’.

It was early in my study of chanoyu, the 'romantic' period if you will, when everything was wabi, equality,
heartfelt hospitality, and Zen ideals. At first sight this scroll seemed to negate the ideals of hospitality and warmth towards guests for which the Japanese tea ceremony is unrivalled.

Trying desperately to understand the meaning, this work fast-tracked my induction into the world of Samurai Tea (bukecha). It is no overstatement to say it also fast-tracked my induction into life as an adult in this ferociously competitive world.

I simply couldn't understand how the most famous calligraphy work of the founder of a Tea Tradition could be so ruthless, unforgiving, even cold. But the truly remarkable character of the person behind the work revealed itself as I pursued its meaning.

It took me years to finally feel confident in grasping its essence. I had to learn a lot of Samurai, Tea and Zen culture before I started get a taste for the spirit behind the words of Ueda

To the best of my understanding the implication of the work is ‘Upon mastering oneself through arduous refinement, discipline and cultivating morality, those without such education, taste for the arts and good judgement naturally lose association with me and never show at my door’.

It continues to fascinate me, to guide me everyday as I strive down my own path, a path that I hope leads me to one day see the world from the eyes of refinement and enlightenment that composed this work.

To aid my focus on my own training in Tea and Zen, I commissioned my friend and calligrapher Shingo Nozao to compose his version of
Sōko's famous work. I now hang Shingo's version in my tearoom and practice in its fierce aura every morning.
Below is a picture from New Year's morning, 1 January 2012.